October 14, 2005
Congresswoman Lois Capps
23rd Congressional District
1707 Longworth House Office Building Washington D.C. 20515
SUBJECT: URGENT REQUEST FOR IMMEDIATE ASSISTANCE
Dear Congresswoman Capps:
With urgency, the Los Osos CSD Board of Directors respectfully requests your immediate intervention with State and Regional Water Board staff decisions regarding the funding and regulations for our wastewater treatment project.
1. Today, State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) staff, in a breach of contract, unilaterally pulled our State Revolving Fund Loan for a project under construction. This decision places our LOCSD in debt to contractors for several million dollars.
2. On October 6, 2005, Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (CCRWQCB) staff threatened us with millions of dollars of fines, now exacerbated by the State Water Board’s decision to stop our construction loan.
A Short History of an Incomplete and Unpopular Project. Beginning as early as Summer 2001, citizens began regularly protesting a “downtown sewer project”, for environmental, engineering and socioeconomic reasons. This project is now the most expensive per capita wastewater project in the nation.
Beginning in Summer 2003, an increasing number of citizens protested detrimental project changes under the Coastal Permit; the supposed “buried project” was now 40 feet tall with potential sewer spills to the Estuary. In November 2004, with an 86% voter turnout and by more than a two-to-one majority, two of us were elected backing a “Move the Sewer” platform.
Beginning in December 2004, citizens and the two minority Board Members made repeated requests in person, writing, and video to the State Water Board, asking them not to disburse any funds until after the recall and Measure B elections were decided, due to high controversy and great financial risk. Despite overwhelming testimony, court challenges and just thirty days prior to the election, (an election that could have been held four weeks earlier), agency personnel ignored our requests and disbursed the SRF monies anyway.
On September 27, 2005, the citizens of Los Osos recalled three directors and approved Measure B, a Citizens’ Initiative, which is now law. Measure B does not allow a wastewater treatment facility to be sited at its current location, on environmentally sensitive lands in the middle of town, next to our library, schools, Catholic church, homes, Chamber of Commerce, community center, and just uphill from our National Estuary.
It appears that the recalled directors timed several critical events with the knowledge and assistance of the SWRCB and RWQCB staff. Rushing the start of construction and financially encumbering this community through construction loan disbursements, just prior to the election, was and is troubling. These discretionary actions have set up our CSD for a fiscal crisis and potential bankruptcy.
Under their own State SRF guidelines, the project is both controversial and outside the affordability criteria. Measure B placed on a ballot, should have postponed all approvals or disbursement of funds.
Our Board pledged to the people to move the treatment plant safely out of town, away from the Morro Bay National Estuary. Also, Measure B requires it. At this point in time, only grading work at the downtown facility site has been done. We have viable plans and willing sellers of land out of town, land that was included as the environmentally preferred project in our adopted EIR.
Our Board has met six times since the September 27 election, in order to proceed as quickly as possible. We formed a Negotiating Team to discuss concerns with the State and pledge full cooperation to expedite an acceptable project, but we have encountered resistance at every turn.
We seek relief from threats, fines and loss of funding. Staff decisions have created an unnecessary financial crisis for our community and a no-win solution for all stakeholders involved. This only adds to the delay of solving our water quality issues. The Los Osos CSD cannot continue construction without allowable modifications to the State Revolving Fund Loan contract. We must be able to revise the RWQCB’s Time Schedule Order 00-131 to avoid fines, in order to complete a project that will meet with citizen approval.
Our Board remains committed to building a safe and affordable sewer. We need your assistance to do so. Please contact us as soon as possible because the people of Los Osos need your help at this critical time. Thank you for your consideration. We look forward to a satisfactory resolution for all concerned with the guidance of your office.
Lisa Schicker, John Fouche
President, Vice President
Julie Tacker, Chuck Cesena, Steve Senet
[Note: in logging this, the additional names of the other board Members dropped off. The entire Board signed the document.]